Alphonse Pinard (1815-1871) is an important figure in the history of banking in France. He took part in the creation of the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) which he directed before becoming involved in the formation of the Banque de Dépôt et de Crédit des Pays-Bas and then the Société Générale. The career of a relatively unknown republican banker.
Born in Sens on 18 January 1815, Alphonse Pinard was not predestined to work in finance. He came from a catholic, middle-class family. His father was a middle school teacher. One of his brothers was an infantry colonel and the other a parish priest at Notre-Dame de Versailles. At the age of twenty five, Alphonse Pinard was a banking commissioner. On 30 September 1840, he opened a “banking and collection commission” in Paris with a partner. His marriage to Adèle Emelie Robert, the daughter of a merchant based in Saint-Quentin, reinforced his position in the business world and brought him a capital of 120,000 French Francs.
The right man for the job
In 1846, France was suffering from a serious credit crunch. Poor wheat harvests meant that wheat had to be imported from Russia and this weighed heavily on Banque de France reserves. Then the Revolution of 1848 led to a crisis of confidence and the cashing of paper assets was blocked. The creation of discount banks, aimed at facilitating paper asset discounts, was one of the first projects that Louis Garnier-Pagès undertook when he was appointed to the Ministry of Finance.
Pinard the Banker, a representative of a fabric merchants union, asked for this type of organisation to be set up in Paris. Garnier-Pagès put him on the advisory board in which publisher Louis Hachette and manufacturer Emile Pereire sat. On 8 March 1948, the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was created. Pinard, the professional, was appointed Assistant Director alongside bookseller Laurent-Antoine Pagnerre, the politician. In October 1854, a unanimous vote consolidated his position as director together with Hippolyte Biesta. Then new statutes were introduced at the CNEP which gave him greater independence from the authorities.
The great banking adventure
1860 was a turning point for the Comptoir d’Escompte. In the aftermath of the free trade agreement between France and England, a decree of 25 May authorised the bank to open branches all over France, in the colonies and abroad. Pinard had been a member of the Higher Council for Algeria and the Colonies since 1858 and once again he established himself as a key figure.
He played a major role in promoting the CNEP and French voluntarism. In the early 1860s, the Comptoir d’Escompte opened branches in Shanghai, Calcutta, Saigon and soon Yokohama. At the same time, in 1863, Pinard set up the Banque de Dépôt et de Crédit des Pays-Bas (forerunner of Paribas) with his partners Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim and Edouard Hentsch. Alphonse Pinard was a very important figure in the world of French banking, helping to set up the Société Générale in 1864 and directing the bank for one year, alongside Edouard Hentsch and Paulin Talabot. Alphonse Pinard’s achievements during the transformation of the banking sector did not suffice in keeping his name alive. This is probably due to his premature death at the age of 56 and the upheavals suffered by the Comptoir d’Escompte afterwards.